Edinburgh Festivals 2014: three stage productions from New Zealand

Highlights include Arthur Meek’s On the Upside Down of the World and Lemi Ponifasio's I AM

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This article is from 2014.

Edinburgh Festivals 2014: three stage productions from New Zealand

On the Upside Down of the World

In the popular view of the northern hemisphere – and indeed, much of the country’s neighbours – New Zealand is a remote idyll populated by hobbits and sheep where not very much ever happens. Yet history tells us that a country so young is unlikely to be a country without its social issues to explore, as the land’s changes are all relatively fresh in the memory and the integration of its peoples is an ongoing process.

Presented as an exercise in celebrating the Commonwealth (in fact, a high proportion of New Zealanders are the descendants of Scots settlers over the generations), the ‘NZ at Edinburgh’ showcase series this year brings a range of theatre shows which scratch beneath the surface of what we imagine New Zealand to be. From a British perspective, playwright Arthur Meek’s On the Upside Down of the World traces the tempestuous history of our own colonisation of the country, a historical one-woman show which adapts the memoirs of Lady Ann Martin, wife of the country’s first Chief Justice and a pioneer of race relations in the mid-19th century.

Tales of migration to NZ don’t just emerge from this remote perspective. More than one show in this series looks at the communities of Pacific Islanders who have settled in the country, but perhaps the most interesting – certainly the most attention-grabbing – might emerge in Victor Rodger’s Black Faggot, a hard-edged comedy about responses to the country’s Marriage Equality Bill set amidst the Pacific Island community. Highest-profile of all, meanwhile, will be the return of Samoan choreographer Lemi Ponifasio after his acclaimed Edinburgh International Festival shows in 2010, with the EIF’s I AM a physical meditation on World War I and New Zealand’s role in it.

On the Upside Down of the World, Assembly Roxy, 623 3030, 2–25 Aug (not 11), 1.15pm, £11 (£10). Previews 31 Jul & 1 Aug, £8.
Black Faggot, Assembly Roxy, 623 3030, 2–25 Aug (not 11), 5.30pm, £12.50 (£11.50). Previews 31 Jul & 1 Aug, £7.
I AM, Playhouse, 473 2000, 16 & 17 Aug, £10–£32.

This article is from 2014.

I AM

Dance piece which took its inspiration from Colin McCahon's painting Victory over Death 2.

Black Faggot

  • 3 stars

It's not easy being young, gay and Samoan – especially when God and your mother are watching. Meet the undercover brother desperate to prove he's straight, an island mama whose beloved son turns out to be queer and a tough Samoan homo who's out, proud and in your face. This runaway hit of the Auckland and Melbourne Fringe…

On the Upside Down of the World

New Zealand Season | Auckland Theatre Company Lady Martin, an intrepid British woman, sails to New Zealand to civilise the natives but instead finds liberation and love as she fights against injustice dealt to Maori at the hands of the English. On the Upside Down of the World is set during the colonisation of the last…

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